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Frequently Asked Questions

DGGS geologists are available to help the public find information about Alaska's geologic resources and hazards. We provide both general information and technical expertise. Need more information? Contact our librarian.

Common questions

Q: Where can I find gold?
A: Allowed gold panning and prospecting activities depend on the rules of the landowner. DGGS has compiled these resources for recreational gold panning.
A: DNR's Public Information Center can answer specific questions like "Is it state land? Is it open to mineral entry? Is someone already mining there?"
A: DNR's Alaska Mapper provides online access to State of Alaska land use records. For mineral information, select the public Mineral Estate Map when entering the application. Zoom into your area of interest, point to the location, and select "Run Query" to access records.

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Q: Who owns this mineral claim?
A: DNR's Public Information Center can help you use Alaska Mapper to answer questions about mineral claims and prospecting sites. Information is available about current and past mining claims. For claim information in Alaska Mapper, select the public Mineral Estate Map when entering the application. Zoom into your area of interest, point to the location, and select "Run Query" to access records.

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Q: Where can I get a copy of a USGS publication?
A: DGGS maintains an online library of Alaska geologic publications from several publishing agencies and has hardcopy (paper) publications of many older reports at its Fairbanks office. While we do not lend or sell paper copies of publications from other agencies, they may be photocopied at our Fairbanks office for a fee. Newer online and hardcopy publications from publishing agencies other than DGGS, such as the USGS and BLM, are available directly from those agencies.

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Q: Where can I find topographic maps for my area of interest?
A: The USGS' new generation of topographic maps can be downloaded for free from The National Map US Topo program. Historical topographic maps are also available online through multiple USGS websites, including ScienceBase.
A: Paper topographic maps are available for sale from the University of Alaska Fairbanks-Geophysical Institute's GeoData Center & Map Office and the USGS Store.

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Q: Did I feel an earthquake?
A: Check the Alaska Earthquake Center (AEC) website. AEC personnel locate and report about 22,000 earthquakes each year, and advise federal and state officials of each major earthquake's location and size within 30 minutes. The earthquake-related hazards section of our website and the DGGS Guide to Geologic Hazards in Alaska provide a wealth of information about earthquakes, earthquake-related hazards, and earthquake safety.

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Q: How can I find out if my home is on an earthquake-producing fault?
A: Alaska is a geologically active region with the potential to produce large earthquakes at any time. Even if your home is not directly on a mapped, earthquake-producing fault, it is still susceptible to earthquake shaking and potential damage. Earthquakes occur on known active faults and previously unknown faults in Alaska all the time! It pays to be prepared!

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Q: How do I find out what is in the soil under and around my home?
A: Soil is mainly composed of particles of minerals and rocks, organic matter, water (sometimes as ice), and air. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service publishes soil survey information for Alaska and soil databases. Maps of the geology, including permafrost and rock units nearby, may provide additional insight into the composition of the soil.

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Q: Is my structure built on permafrost?
A: Permafrost is an important building consideration throughout northern and interior Alaska. To learn more about permafrost in Alaska see the permafrost section of our website and review our permafrost-related publications.

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Q: Where can I find information about groundwater wells in my neighborhood?
A: The Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water - Well Log Tracking System (WELTS) provides a helpful database of many groundwater well logs throughout the state.
A: Many Alaskan communities are challenged by limited sources of safe drinking water. The DGGS online library includes numerous reports and maps that describe how local rock chemistry, permafrost, and subsurface rock structure and distribution can influence groundwater chemistry and availability.

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Q: Where are good places to hike in Alaska and find artifacts and neat rocks?
A: The Official State of Alaska Vacation and Travel Information website and Alaska Public Lands Information Centers describe many nice hiking trips and other things to do in Alaska.
A: The collection of artifacts and fossils and rocks is regulated by the landowner. The Generally Allowed Uses fact sheet describes allowed activities on state lands such as camping and recreational rock collection.

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Q: Is there an archive of Alaska rocks? Where can I look at the rocks that DGGS collects?
A: The Alaska Geologic Materials Center, located at 3651 Penland Parkway in Anchorage, is the central repository in which geologic materials collected from Alaska are cataloged, stored, and studied. Please call ahead (907-696-0079) or email GMC staff to make an appointment or schedule a tour.

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Q: Where can I find licenses and permits for camping?
A: Alaska's parks and recreations areas have many public campgrounds and public-use cabins. The Alaska Public Lands Information Centers website has compiled information on lodging, passes, and permits.
A: There are few roads and trails through Alaska's public lands. Camping on state land is considered a generally allowed use. Camping is also allowed on many federal lands, such as in the backcountry of Denali National Park. Make sure to think through safety concerns, research minimum-impact camping, and tell a friend before you head out into the wilderness.

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Q: Where can I find jade in Alaska for carving? Isn't jade related to asbestos?
A: Jade is the official Alaska state gem. Most known occurrences of jade in Alaska are in the remote Kobuk River region of northwest Alaska on land owned by the NANA Regional Corporation, Inc., although there are other localities reported in the Alaska Resource Data File. NANA Regional Corporation, Inc. is one of Alaska's 13 Regional Native Corporations.
A: There are two jade minerals used for carving, nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite is usually found in Alaska, while jadeite occurs in Asia. Although chemically the two minerals are quite different, they both form in geologic environments with serpentinite, a metamorphosed rock that was originally high in iron and magnesium but low in silica. Several asbestos minerals are also known to form in serpentinites. Alaska has 62 known naturally occurring asbestos localities.

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Q: Are there natural sources of clay in Alaska suitable for pottery?
A: There are many natural deposits of clay in the state and some have been used successfully to create pottery. Be sure to obtain permission from the landowner before you harvest clay from a property. Alaska potters say that digging your own clay requires a lot of processing, testing, and adding additional elements. Consider networking with local potters, guilds, and universities to see what resources are already being used. There are guilds established in most major towns and regions in Alaska.

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Q: Where can I find information about hot springs and geothermal resources in Alaska?
A: The Alaska Public Lands Information Centers website has compiled information on some of the more accessible Interior hot springs. The State of Alaska has additional hot springs information on their Kids' Corner website. View photos and read a hiker's perspective.
A: Alaska's project on geothermal energy made thermal spring and related geologic data available through the National Geothermal Data System. Additional maps and reports with geothermal data are available through DGGS' publications search, including information on geothermal energy sources for local use in Alaska.

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Q: How do I find out about lot numbers and land ownership?
A: If your area of interest is in a borough, navigate to the borough's property website for more information. For complex questions, contact DNR's Public Information Center.
A: If your area of interest is outside of a borough, DNR's Alaska Mapper provides online access to State of Alaska land ownership records. For land ownership information, select the public Land Estate Map when entering the application. Zoom into your area of interest, point to the location, and select "Run Query" to access records. For complex questions, contact DNR's Public Information Center.
A: To look up information on state-owned land, search the DNR Land Records Search Utility. Information on federal-owned land is available through the BLM. Recorder's Office searches are available online for privately owned land.

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Q: What is LiDAR?
A: LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technology that provides high resolution digital elevation data. LiDAR is used by geologists to detect topographic features and to measure land surface elevation beneath the vegetation. See our Elevation Portal for Alaska LiDAR data and derivative products.

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